An Unexpected Inheritance
“Lyna, what do you think about this?” I was so caught off guard my mouth was on autopilot. I couldn’t imagine living in a universe that didn’t have my grandmother in it. I had never even considered the idea.
“I’ll take care of your grandmother until she doesn’t need me any longer then I’ll come to wherever you are and take care of you.” She said this was such conviction and with such certainty that it added to my unease.
“I don’t even know where I’ll be.”
“It doesn’t matter, I’ll find you.”
I had to laugh. When my grandmother died, I could be halfway across the Empire. It wasn’t like Lyna could catch a cab. There were a few merchant ships that crossed the incomprehensible void between systems but the passage was expensive and one never knew when one might show up and where it was going when it left. In the heyday of the Empire, there had been passenger ships but the last passenger line went belly up over fifty years ago.
“Once we leave, no one will know where we are. The admiral takes the flotilla where he pleases. The board will give him some suggestions and alert him to any problem areas in our quadrant, but for security purposes when we leave this system no one outside our little group of ships will know where we are until we show up.”
Lyna gave me a look like she had when I was five and doubted something she told me. “Walter, have I ever lied to you?”
“Well no but…”
“I’ll find you and I’ll come to where you are. Before your grandmother passes, I’ll come and get you so you can tell her goodbye. Then we can leave together, I never left your grandmother and I’ll never leave you.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Sweetheart, there are a lot of things you don’t know. It’s time to bring you up to speed. Come over here and sit next to me.” Nana had moved from the table and was sitting comfortably on one of the broad couches that faced the black void.
I joined her and she took my hand. She gave me the same look that Lyna had. I felt like a child again.
“A long time ago in a galaxy far away,” she started. “There was a race of beings called the Anastazi…” It went on for a long time. When she finished, I felt as though my reality had been turned inside out. Much of what I had come to believe as history and the basis for my life was just so much fiction.
“…and grandpa JG developed antimatter!”
“With assistance from the Anastazi ship he did. The ship was on its last legs. It had almost exhausted its antimatter supply. If the ship didn’t get a fresh charge of antimatter, it would die. Your ancestor provided the Anastazi vessel what it needed and it, in turn, gave him the formula for the emerald that made his fortune.”
“Where is this ship today?”
“It’s here, in the Sparta system in orbit around Titan II.” Titan II was a gas giant on the far fringes of the Spartan system.
“…and Lyna is an Anastazi?” This caused both ladies to laugh.
“No, Lyna is an android built by the Anastazi ship.”
“You mean built by the Anastazi?”
“No, she was actually constructed by the ship itself. The ship has an AI that is so far superior to anything we have as to be unrecognizable.”
“I’m sorry, I just don’t get any of this,” I said after a long silence.
“When you go out to the ship and meet the AI, you will understand.”
“When is this going to happen?”
“The sooner, the better, can you get a couple days off?”
“I haven’t taken any leave for five years. I can take some time, but how are we going to get out to Titan, it’s a long way, or are you going to bring…”
“Leave that to us,” my grandmother interrupted. “Make your arrangements for forty-eight hours free time and let us know; we’ll arrange for you to meet the AI.”
My head was spinning and I was experiencing a sense of almost vertigo when the voice in my earbud brought me back to the present reality.
“Sir, the transport is loaded. We can get underway at your convenience,” my COB reported.
“Nana, we are going back to Sparta. Do you want to go back with us or are you going to stay out here for a while?” She and Lyna had come out with us, but Emil had a couple of shuttles that could take them back if they wished to stay a while.
“We’ll ride back with you,” she replied. “That way, when you get leave we can make arrangements…”
“Well, it’s almost a week back to Sparta at one g, you can fill me in on a lot of the details on the way back.”
“Sweetheart there is one other thing I want to ask you,” my Nana said earnestly.
“Sure, go ahead.”
She hesitated as if somewhat embarrassed by her question but then dived right in. “Walter, have you ever had a girlfriend? Have you ever been in love?”
I’ll have to admit, that slowed me down. I had to think a bit about where she might be coming from with this question. Was she trying to determine if I was gay? Of course, she could have no idea. I left home when I was fifteen and had hardly seen her since, other than hasty short visits.
Now, I’ve had a few girlfriends over the years. The Navy is integrated and there are roughly as many women on a ship as men, so there had been opportunities, but the Navy is humorless about fraternization. There are strict rules that make getting serious with a shipmate complicated and awkward.
“I’ve had a few girlfriends,” I told her. “I’ll have to admit, I really don’t know what love is, in the context you’re talking about; I love you, I loved bapaw, my mom and I love Lyna. What I feel for Emil is more akin to admiration, I guess, but as far as loving a woman to the point of wanting to spend the rest of my life being faithful to her; no — I haven’t been in love.” I finally ran down.
“You don’t have …urges?” She asked me tentatively as if afraid of the answer.
“Look, Nana, the Navy puts certain trace chemicals in our diet. These potions reduce our libido to almost zero. It is necessary. They couldn’t have mixed crews of several hundred young people living, eating, bathing and sleeping together in close proximity without some damper on their sexual urges. It would be chaos.
“Hmmm, I see. This isn’t common knowledge.”
“No, the Navy would deny it vehemently if it came up. Until I became the commander of my own ship, I was unaware of it. It’s a closely held secret.”
“Don’t you miss…”
“Nana, I’ve been on the Navy diet since I was fifteen. You don’t miss something you never had.”
“That is just …sad.”
“Nana, what is this really about?”
“You need an heir. Emil is sterile. He and Elaine tried to have children for a couple of years without success. Finally, they ran tests. Emil cannot have children. If the Sinclair name in our branch is going to continue, it’s up to you.”
This was proving to be a very enlightening day.
“I have something for you,” Emil told me. We were standing on the loading platform in front of the little tube car that would take me down to the zero gravity portion of the station where our transport ship was docked. We had embarked Nana and Lyna with all of their personal effects and were ready to depart. Emil had come down to tell everyone goodbye.
He was holding a carved wooden box the size of a medium suitcase in front of his body balanced on his right arm. He pushed a hidden button and the lid popped up revealing the contents. Inside, cushioned on purple velvet cutouts, were six of the emerald wine glasses Nana had shown me in the Sinclair suite.
Emil picked one up by its almost invisible stem so I could see the glass itself. It was embossed with the Navy emblem below which were the words, “HMS Caligula Capt. Walter Sinclair Commanding.” The lettering and logo were very faintly etched into the crystal, barely visible but legible.
“This is too much Emil; those glasses are worth a king’s ransom!”
“They are Sinclair legacy, as much yours as mine, take them, enjoy them and pass them on.” He actually smiled. I couldn’t remember when I had seen him relax and smile. I decided he might not be a big a jerk as I thought.
I gently closed the lid and set the box down in the seat of the shuttle. I straightened up and held out my hand. To my amazement Emil to a step toward me and enveloped me in a hug. When he stepped back, I swear there were tears in his eyes.
I was shocked.
“Emil, what is going on?” All of this was so out of character for my older brother to the point where I was beginning to believe he had been possessed by some alien personality.
Emil looked at the box then straight at me for a moment. “Those are for my nephew,” he said, turned on his heel and marched away without another word.
I was starting to get it.
Emil was not very religious. He stopped attending divine services shortly after he was confirmed. What Emil worshiped was the Sinclair family name, its history, and its legacy. Unable to provide an heir, Emil was passing the torch to me.
This was going to be a tall order for someone who hadn’t had an erection since he was fifteen.
“Commodore, there is a family emergency that has come up. I’m going to have to take a couple days leave.” I was standing in front of the flotilla commander’s desk. We were on his flagship, HMS Hadrian III. Typically the fleet commander would plant his flag on the largest ship of the flotilla; which in our case would be my battlecruiser. Our commander preferred the destroyer since it was newer, faster and had come to the fleet with a flag suite built in.
“Walter, you’re certainly due some leave and I’m not going to deny you. However, we have emergency orders. I’m going to have to take the flotilla and I can’t leave the big guns of your ship behind.”
Commodore Nathan Carlisle was a distant cousin on my mother’s side of the family. He was a Spartan and was in line to be Fleet Admiral at some point in the future. He was the first Colonial to be promoted to flag rank in our generation.
“My exec can step up in my absence,” I told him reluctantly. The thought of leaving my command when it was going into action was not sitting well with me. I began to have some second thoughts about this alien ship business.
“I’m sure he can,” the commodore replied. “I’ll move my flag to the cruiser in your absence, however, and I’ll leave a destroyer here to bring you back.”
“Will I be a passenger?”
“No Walter,” the commodore said patiently. “I will take her captain with me on staff. Haddy is yours until you rejoin us.” I was impressed. The commodore was leaving me his flagship as a personal taxi. “How long do you need to wrap up your business?”
“Officially I’m taking a week; if I get done sooner I’ll…”
“No Walter,” he interrupted me. “Take a week; spend some time with your grandmother. Who knows when you will see her again?”
“Thank you, Sir,” I told him, surprised at his willingness to let the senior captain of his command traipse off on unexplained family business when the commodore was taking the flotilla into action.
“There is one other thing,” he said and I knew the other shoe was about to drop. “You have better contacts here at home than I do. I get rumors of sedition talk floating around. While you are here, I want you to drop in on a council meeting and take their temperature. The Empire cannot afford to lose Sparta.”
That stopped me cold. I had no idea the Emperor’s court had any hint of Sparta’s council flirting with independence.
“Sir, may I speak freely and off the record?”
“Certainly Captain, feel free,” he said verbally but his shaking head and eyes rolling up to look at the ceiling told me everything was being recorded. I had to think fast.
“I think the majority of the council is loyal, there may be some opportunists with differing views, but I don’t think there is a problem.”
“Well okay then, but I would still like for you to dig around and see what you can come up with.” He stood and came around his desk to take my hand. “I’ll walk you down to the shuttle bay, okay?”
“Certainly Sir, thank you.”
The hangar deck was a cacophony of noise and bustle as shuttles were being loaded and outfitted for getting underway. There were robot trucks and androids mixed in with the crew in a last-minute hurrying shuffle. offloading fresh supplies and discarding junk that had been accumulated during the month of the crews enjoying shore leave.
What they could not know was they were going nowhere until I was ready.
“What did you want to say, Captain?” the commodore leaned over and whispered in my ear. We were standing at the bottom of the ramp leading up to the shuttle I would take to the surface of Sparta below.
“If Sparta declares independence it will put you and me in a tight spot.” I put my cards on the table. “I’ll have to tell you, I don’t know which way I would go.”
“I know,” he replied. “If the Emperor accepted their independence I would stay with the fleet. If it comes to war, I will not fire on my own people.”
“You’re a good man Nathan,” I told him earnestly. “The majority of the council is loyal. If it comes to it, I believe my brother will do the right thing. A civil war would not be good for business.”
The commodore nodded his understanding of my position. He turned to walk away but stopped after a couple steps and turned back to face me.
“Look, Walter, I’m putting you in for thirty days,” he said with finality. “You deal with this issue whatever it is. Put it to rest and come back when it’s settled. I’ll leave a sealed packet of orders in my safe encoded with your biometrics telling you where we will be.” He then turned before I could reply and marched off his shoulders slumped a bit with the pressure of command clearly weighing on him.
I watched him walk away with no little trepidation. He had just dumped the entire issue of Spartan independence in my lap.